Arsenic, lead, PFAS chemicals; A toxic brew is being found in our drinking water and it’s getting worse.

Water in glass, Clean drinking water

By Kami Klein

Water…we are all taught from an early age that drinking water is a must for our body to remain hydrated and flush out the bad stuff.  Health authorities commonly recommend eight 8-ounce glasses, which equals about 2 liters, or half a gallon per day. The American people seem to be getting the message and are drinking more water than ever before. but reports and studies recently released are creating increasing alarm about the many dangerous chemicals that we are consuming with every drop. Americans get drinking water from private wells, tap water from public water treatment plants and in buying bottled water. Many concerned consumers are urging scientists for in-depth analysis of the health risks for each.  

Groundwater contamination

The United States Geological Survey says that about 44 million people in the U.S. get their drinking water from private wells. Surveys show about half of those have their wells tested at least once a year.  When flooding occurs, such as in this spring’s historic storms, thousands can be exposed to a dangerous mix of materials in their water.

Many in the Midwest that are affected rely on groundwater for rural and small municipal water supply. Household, farm, and small business wells situated in broad, sand and gravel valleys and glaciated rolling countryside could be standing in water for several days, raising the potential for contamination if the wells aren’t properly maintained. Exposure to E. coli, coliform, and other pathogenic microbes from human and animal fecal matter in floodwaters is a common health concern following a major flooding event.

But there is a growing problem in many states that has nothing to do with flooding.   And that is from a natural substance found in our soil…Arsenic.

Though arsenic can be found in the air and soil, the World Health Organization says the greatest threat to public health globally comes from groundwater, which is contaminated as it flows through rocks and minerals containing arsenic and resides in wells and tributaries.  

In a recent study published by the American Heart Association Journal, the dangers of increased and prolonged exposure to arsenic in water and in some food such as rice are becoming more evident. The study found that young adults free of diabetes and cardiovascular disease developed heart damage after only five years of exposure to low-to-moderate levels of arsenic commonly found in groundwater. Arsenic has also been linked to various cancers, kidney damage, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

“It is important for the general public to be aware that arsenic can be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the study’s lead author, Dr. Gernot Pichler said. “Private wells are currently not regulated and people using private wells, including children and young adults, are not protected.”

Millions Exposed to PFAS chemicals

In a recent report by the non-profit Environmental Working Group and Northeastern University, it has been found that people in nearly every state in the U.S. are exposed to unhealthy drinking water both in private wells and through public water systems. According to researchers, 43 states have locations, including drinking water sites, contaminated with PFAS chemicals

Taken from Pentagon data and water utility reports the study shows an estimated 19 million people are exposed to contaminated water. PFAS, are synthetic chemicals found in many products, including food packaging, household cleaners and nonstick cookware, according to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency

In an interview with CBSN, David Andrews, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group said, “This should be frightening to all Americans in many ways. these chemicals… don’t break down in our body and they don’t break down in our environment and they actually stick to our blood. So levels tend to increase over time.”

The EPA stated in March 2019 that 92 percent of the water used every day by Americans meets all of the EPA requirements for safe drinking water.  According to Andrews, the EPA  has not set a new legal drinking water limit for any contaminant in over two decades. And feels that the whole system of regulating chemicals that may end up in our water is broken.  “The agency is really falling behind the science here.”

But let’s say that the EPA is correct and do the math on their claims. Nationwide, 327 million Americans each drink two to eight glasses of water on average every day. If 8 percent of that supply doesn’t meet EPA standards, that’s up to 209 million unsafe glasses of water per day, or 2.3 billion gallons of water—enough to fill a quarter of a million bathtubs. In short, high compliance numbers do not mean everything is fine.

In May 2019, Representatives from both parties of Congress released a half-dozen bills in response to PFAS contamination. The bills range from providing more funding for communities tasked with the cost of treating contaminated water to increasing transparency in reporting chemical flows and prohibitions on products with PFAS.

But as many consumer groups have stated, the damage is there and many feel that it would take decades to fix this ever-increasing problem.  

Filtered is Best

Many have turned to bottled water as a safer alternative. In fact, Americans consume more than 8.6 gallons of bottled water each year.  Studies on the health risks of bottled water have shown that plastic these bottles are made of and can basically leak into the water.

BPA, a component often found in plastic, is a hormone disruptor that can have a wide range of impacts on the human body, including hormone imbalance, toxicity, inflammation, and even cancer.  BPA isn’t even the only component of plastic that is potentially dangerous—there are dozens of other chemicals that can have adverse effects on the body, endocrine system, and other organs.

What is the solution?  How do we keep our family from toxic chemicals?  How do we know our water is safe?

The best solution is to filter your water.  Bottled water, which many believe is the best alternative is costly.  A good filtering system can save you money and remove ALL of the chemicals used to treat water as well as those that are leaking into our water systems.  

There are many advances in the past decade of filtering systems that remove more than 99 percent of pathogens, bacteria, lead and more.

The light on the problems with our water quality are becoming brighter by the day. In the meantime, we must tackle the problem with common sense and safety in mind.  A filtering system for your drinking water is what makes the most sense for YOUR health and for your family.

 

There are many water filtration systems out there.  Morningside highly recommends Seychelle products.  

References for this Article: Newsweek, CNN, CBS, Agency for Toxic Substances, National Groundwater Association, Livescience.com, World Health Organization,

Exclusive: Lead poisoning afflicts neighborhoods across California

A man passes a four unit building under renovation in Emeryville, California, United States March 20, 2017. Neighbor Joy Ashe says she is concerned about lead and other pollutants escaping during construction. To match Special Report USA-LEAD/CALIFORNIA REUTERS/Noah Berger

By Joshua Schneyer and M.B. Pell

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Dozens of California communities have experienced recent rates of childhood lead poisoning that surpass those of Flint, Michigan, with one Fresno locale showing rates nearly three times higher, blood testing data obtained by Reuters shows.

The data shows how lead poisoning affects even a state known for its environmental advocacy, with high rates of childhood exposure found in a swath of the Bay Area and downtown Los Angeles. And the figures show that, despite national strides in eliminating lead-based products, hazards remain in areas far from the Rust Belt or East Coast regions filled with old housing and legacy industry.

In one central Fresno zip code, 13.6 percent of blood tests on children under six years old came back high for lead. That compares to 5 percent across the city of Flint during its recent water contamination crisis. In all, Reuters found at least 29 Golden State neighborhoods where children had elevated lead tests at rates at least as high as in Flint.

“It’s a widespread problem and we have to get a better idea of where the sources of exposure are,” said California Assembly member Bill Quirk, who chairs the state legislature’s Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials.

(To see the Reuters interactive map of U.S. lead hotspots, click here http://reut.rs/2h55POf)

Last week, prompted in part by a December Reuters investigation pinpointing thousands of lead hotspots across the country, Quirk introduced a bill that would require blood lead screening for all California children. Now, just a fraction of the state’s children are tested.

The newest zip code-level testing data was released by the California Department of Public Health in response to a longstanding Reuters records request and adds to a limited set of numbers previously disclosed by the state. The numbers offer a partial state snapshot, covering tests conducted during 2012 – the most recent year for which information was provided – and in about one-fourth of the state’s more than 2,000 zip code areas.

Unlike other states that provided Reuters with results for all zip codes or census tracts, California withheld data from zip codes where fewer than 250 children were screened, calling such results less reliable. So, the available data – encompassing about 400,000 children tested in 546 zip codes – likely omits many neighborhoods where lead exposure remains a problem but fewer children were screened.

California’s Public Health Department said comparisons between the state’s blood lead testing results and those from other states aren’t warranted. It said the state tests children deemed at risk for lead exposure, such as those enrolled in Medicaid or living in older housing.

HOTSPOT IN FRESNO

“Testing of at-risk children, and not all children, skews California results to higher percentage of children tested showing lead exposure,” the state said.

Testing that targets at-risk children is common across much of the country, however. And, as Reuters reported last year, many at-risk children in California and other states fall through the cracks of these programs and go untested.

Blood tests can’t determine the cause of a child’s exposure, but potential sources include crumbling old paint, contaminated soil, tainted drinking water or other lead hazards.

In Fresno’s downtown 93701 zip code, nearly 14 percent of children tested had lead levels at or above 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s current threshold for an elevated reading.

No level of lead exposure is safe, but children who test that high warrant a public health response, the CDC says.

Once common in household paint, gasoline and plumbing, lead is a neurotoxin that causes irreversible health impacts, including cognitive impairment and attention disorders in children.

In all, Fresno County had nine zip code areas where high lead levels among children tested were at least as common as in Flint. The Reuters article in December documented nearly 3,000 locales nationwide with poisoning rates double those found in the Michigan city along the Flint River.

The city of Fresno battles high poverty rates and problems with substandard housing, both risk factors for lead exposure. Some locals are also concerned with drinking water, after unsafe levels of lead were detected in at least 120 Fresno homes last year.

Fresno County’s lead poisoning prevention program conducts outreach across the city, and a program health educator, Leticia Berber, says exposure remains too common.

Still, she expressed surprise at the area’s high rate. “We haven’t looked at it that way compared to Flint,” Berber said.

Eight zip codes in Alameda County, which includes Oakland, had rates equal to or greater than those found in Flint. Other counties containing zip codes with high exposure rates included Los Angeles, Monterrey and Humboldt.

The exposure hotspots remain outliers. Around 2 percent of all California children tested in 2012 had lead levels at or above the federal standard, Reuters found.

Yet in the worst-affected zip codes identified statewide, more than 10 percent of children tested had an elevated lead level. In scores of others, less than 1 percent of children tested high. Three zip codes reported no high tests in 2012.

BAY AREA PLANS ACTION

In California, home inspections are required when a child’s levels reach 14.5 micrograms per deciliter, the state’s formal threshold for a “lead poisoning case.”

State and local health departments provide services, including educational materials, to some families whose children test at or above 4.5 micrograms per deciliter. Like other states, including Michigan, California rounds its blood lead test results up or down to the nearest whole number. So, a result of 4.5 or higher meets the CDC threshold.

In its December report, Reuters tracked California lead exposure rates based on the neighborhood-level data available at the time. The report showed hotspots such as the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland, where 7.6 percent of children tested high, prompting media coverage and new initiatives to protect children.

Lead exposure is common in other East Bay areas, including large parts of Oakland, and nearby Emeryville and Fremont, the new data shows.

In January, Oakland city council members introduced a resolution that would require property owners to obtain lead inspections and safety certifications before renting or selling houses and apartments built before 1978, when lead paint was banned.

Emeryville’s city council this month proposed an ordinance to require proof that contractors will adhere to Environmental Protection Agency standards – including safe lead paint removal practices – before they renovate older housing.

Emeryville Vice Mayor John Bauters said paint exposure isn’t the only risk. A long history of heavy industry in the East Bay also left contaminated soil in some areas.

In the Los Angeles area, the prevalence of high blood lead tests reached 5 percent or above in at least four zip codes during 2012.

Since August, a sampling of children tested from the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Westlake, Koreatown and Pico Union revealed about 5 percent with high lead results, said Jeff Sanchez, a public health specialist at Impact Assessment, which helps Los Angeles run its lead poisoning prevention program.

“The more you look,” Sanchez said, “the more you find.”

(Reporting By Joshua Schneyer and M.B. Pell. Editing by Ronnie Greene.)

U.S. top court rejects Exxon appeal in groundwater contamination case

Exxon Storage Tanks

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected Exxon Mobil Corp’s appeal of a $236 million judgment against the oil company in a case brought by the state of New Hampshire over groundwater contamination linked to a gasoline additive.

The justices left in place the New Hampshire Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling upholding the judgment by a jury that in 2013 spurned Exxon’s claims that the contamination linked to its fuel additive was not its fault but rather the fault of the local gas stations and storage facilities that spilled it.

Exxon argued in its appeal that its due process rights were violated because New Hampshire had not proved the company’s liability for the alleged pollution at each individual site.

The additive at the center of the case is called methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE. It is an oxygen-containing substance that was added to gasoline to promote more complete combustion and reduce air pollution.

It was one of several additives that had been recommended by regulators to reduce emissions but has now largely been phased out of the U.S. fuel supply because of the hazard it poses to groundwater.

New Hampshire’s lawsuit against Exxon, headquartered in Irving, Texas, dates back to 2003.

State officials called the $236 million judgment the largest MTBE-related verdict since states and other agencies began making claims for remediation and other damages. Exxon said in court papers it is the largest-ever jury verdict in New Hampshire.

In 2014, Exxon also appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court a $105 million jury verdict in favor of New York City over MTBE contamination, but the court declined to hear the case.

The case is Exxon Mobil v. New Hampshire, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 15-933.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)